After a terrific first half, La Salle scrapped its way through the second half and turned up its defense in overtime to beat Iona, 70-64 in overtime, in their season opener Saturday at Tom Gola Arena.
It was 41-23 at halftime, with La Salle (1-0) holding Iona to just 2-for-15 three-point shooting.
The Gaels (0-1) found their shooting touch early in the second half and got to within 51-47 with 9 minutes, 46 seconds to go, but the Explorers tightened up their defense and rebounding after that.
When David Beatty hit two free throws to put La Salle up, 64-56, with 1:41 to go, it seemed like that might be enough. But the Explorers gave up three offensive rebounds and a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. Freshman Sherif Kenney missed the front end of a one-and-one with 15 seconds left, and Iona’s Isaiah Washington hit a game-tying three to force overtime at 64-64.
David Beatty led the Explorers in scoring with 15 points. He also contributed eight rebounds and three assists.
Freshman forward Brandon Stone played 23 minutes off the bench and delivered 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Iona has been one of the more efficient shooting mid-major teams in Division I in recent years, but La Salle held the Gaels to just 0.76 points per possession.
“I told them I love them, I told them we prepared for this, and that we ain’t backing down from nobody. We’ve been playing basketball for most of our lives. Just be confident.” -- David Beatty on the advice he gave to the freshmen late in the game.
La Salle coach Ashley Howard threw all four of his freshmen right into the mix. Stone and guards Christian Ray, Ayinde Hikim, and Sherif Kenney each played more than 10 minutes.
The freshman guards didn’t put up great stats, but showed a pretty good amount of poise down the stretch against a far more experienced opponent. The Gaels have won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for four straight years, returned four starters from last season and were voted No. 1 in this year’s MAAC preseason poll.